Michael’s Genuine Grand Cayman
James Beard award winner Michael Schwartz brings his homemade, laid back approach to food at Michael’s Genuine Grand Cayman. The restaurant uses local ingredients and continues a close relationships to local farmers. My sister and I decide to order several small dishes from the eclectic menu, including wood roasted local double egg yolk, local eggplant with raisins and almonds and kimchi. A real standout is the local tuna tartare, lusciously creamy with subtle hints of citrus, topped with a delicate quail’s egg. Dessert is designed by head pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith and executed by pastry chef Adriana Duran Flores. The goat’s cheesecake is bright, and the infusion of a passion fruit compote and lime cleanses the palate while the trio of ice cream (smoked vanilla bean and chocolate chip, buttered popcorn, and mineola) shows the signature balance of savoury and sweet elements.
47 Forum Lane, Suite 4103, Canella Court, Camana Bay,
Walter Fajette together with business partner Cristiano Vicentini have spent twenty years combined on Grand Cayman, opening Agua Restaurant & Lounge in 2009. The pair has always worked in the restaurant industry, and Fajette saw a void in the restaurant scene on Grand Cayman. “There are many Italian restaurants on the island, and many of the menu items were the same. We wanted to do something different.” The owners employed chefs with varied backgrounds, including Austrian, Malaysian, and Filipino to craft dishes from their native Italy with a twist. What the two have managed to do at Agua is inject typical Italian warmth and hospitality into a sophisticated dining experience. “One of the two of us is always here. People know they can talk directly to us,” says Fajette, who is a premier host.
The menu at Agua focuses on seafood but meat dishes, vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options also exist. Wine plays an integral role at the restaurant. With two second level sommeliers on staff including Vicentini, pairings are handled seamlessly. Global influences culled from Fajette’s travels permeate our meal which begins with a trio of ceviche: local snapper in a coconut sauce, tuna tartare, and the Peruvian style carpaccio of wahoo with amarillo pepper. Paired with a glass of sparkling wine from the south of France, the truffle oil on the tartare combines lusciously with the creamy avocado, while the Thai style ceviche is clever and bold. Fajette pairs our classic pasta course with a Spanish Verdejo. The combination of lobster, and shitake mushrooms in ultra thin ravioli lightly tossed in a lobster sauce with chives and mascarpone has a satisfying earthiness and is surprisingly light. Next, we enjoy the arugula salad which is a take on a Waldorf salad with the contrasting textures of blue cheese, blueberries, walnuts, apples and a sugar cane dressing. Though many dishes on the menu are classic Italian, most straddle several continents like the Asian fusion wasabi tuna with tempura green beans, served with a potato croquette. The tuna is cooked to a flawless rosy rare sear, the heat of the wasabi adding just the right amount of heat to bring the dish together. We end as we began with a trio of dessert: a profiterole with rich dark chocolate, light refreshing mango mousse, and stracciatella ice cream, strewn with flecks of chocolate. Fajette brings a late harvest Chilean wine, with just enough sweetness to finish our meal. The staff take a cue from Fajette’s warmth. Though the restaurant is packed, throughout our meal the staff has worked together to ensure incredible service. We notice a couple sitting lingering over their dessert, commending Fajette on the meal they have just enjoyed. “When we opened in 2009, people thought we were crazy, but we’re happy to keep doing what we’re doing. The goal is to create great food, and for people to leave happy,” says Fajette.